Q & A with Carolinne and Dylan Griffin of State 14

Carolinne and Dylan Griffin are a husband and wife creative team whose current endeavor (one of them), State 14, is housed at the corner of Hinesburg and Church Hill roads in Charlotte. News editor Melissa O’Brien took some time recently to talk with them about their work, their transition from New York to Vermont and the folks who inspire them.

Tell us a little about yourselves, where you grew up, etc.
Carolinne: I am the first American-born on either side of my family. My parents immigrated from Sweden and Lebanon in the early seventies when the war in Lebanon was just breaking out. My dad got an internship in medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark, New Jersey—that’s where I was born. I was raised in Ridgewood, a community just outside of New York City. Basically, I’m a Jersey girl from a multicultural home. I went to UVM for undergrad, then moved to New York City in 2001 for graduate school, where I met Dylan.

Dylan was born in Austin, Texas, and grew up in various parts of the Lonestar State. He was raised by his mother, who was a singer/songwriter, and his grandparents, who were fourth generation Texans. He moved to New York City in 1999 to pursue his photography career.

What did it look like when the fates conspired and brought you together?
We met in front of Botanica, a bar on Houston Street in Manhattan, on Dylan’s 34th birthday. A mutual friend of ours asked me to go with her to his party. Dylan was leaving the next day for a photography trip to India. We met again about a year later at a dinner party, and the timing was just right. While we were dating, I brought Dylan to Vermont, thinking (hoping!) that he’d love it. My hunch was right. Soon after, he purchased land in the Champlain Valley, and we were married a year later at the local Grange Hall. It took four more years until we would finally build a house and move up full time with our two babies and a dog named Sneakers. 

Dylan: Nikon or Canon?

Carolinne: Pencil and paper or keyboard?
Ideally, pencil and paper. But the keyboard always wins. 

There are 50 states in the union; why Vermont?
Vermont was the one place in the U.S. that felt most like home to my Swedish mother. As a kid, I remember driving up every winter to ski at various mountains throughout the state. In high school, I attended Bread and Puppet with friends. It was such an incredible spectacle that aligned with my personal beliefs and politics. It was also my first time seeing Vermont in the summer, and it struck me as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I was called to live here. Down the line, Dylan and I decided we wanted a new chapter for our lives. We wanted to raise our kids closer to nature, in a tightly knit community, and Vermont was our first choice. It’s a special place. 

How have you found it to be, living here in the Champlain Valley?
People gush all the time about life here in Vermont, but it’s not always easy; sometimes folks arrive here with a very romantic notion about what it’s going to be.

How has the transition been for you two?
We moved from a 900-square-foot apartment in a crowded city to 10 pristine acres. We are very attached to our land, the fresh air, our growing garden…we have a sweet little school and kind neighbors. But yes, it’s not always been easy. Transitioning, workwise, took some time to figure out. It was our indoctrination into living our dream…those first few years made us more resilient as people and stronger as a couple. 

I know you have children; how are they enjoying their new life here?
They love it. Vermont is an amazing place to raise children. Our kids have got it pretty good.

What do you miss about New York?
All the things one might expect: the glorious food, the cultural diversity, the museums, the insane creativity, and style everywhere you look. I miss pedestrian life and the anonymity of living in New York—there’s a freedom in that. 

Folks who drive by the building on the corner of Church Hill and Hinesburg roads are probably wondering about the mysterious and lovely sign for State 14. What’s going on in there?
It serves as a place outside of our home to do work—our photography, writing and meetings. It’s a surprisingly busy intersection, so we figured it couldn’t hurt to put up signage and gain a little visibility for the project. Our children have had some very successful lemonade stands there in the summer months.

How did the collaboration with Hotel Vermont come about?
Our friend Malcolm Buick, who use to live in Burlington but whom we met in New York, was doing some design work for the hotel. Malcolm introduced Hans van Wees, the general manager of the hotel, to our site. There is a trend these days for businesses to enhance their brands with editorial content. It was a natural fit. We created a printed piece for the Hotel’s 5th anniversary in May. We then produced a second piece for fall/winter, which the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing also helped sponsor. There are plans for a Spring/Summer 2019 issue.

Hans has been a true champion of our project, along with Lauren Sanderson. They’re stellar people and are doing great work telling the Vermont story through interesting events and meaningful collaborations at the hotel. 

What other writers/photographers are you working with?
Ben Hewitt has been our partner since day one. He’s a terrific writer, and as a Vermonter he brings a perspective that’s extremely valuable to the overall project. 

Photography wise, Nathanael Asaro is an incredible talent, and he’s been such an asset to State14. We’ve also worked with Corey Hendrickson, Caleb Kenna, Matt Kiedaisch and more.

Our regular writing partners include Jessica Lewis Stevens, Brett Ann Stanciu, Liz Courtney, Tim Patterson and Eric Hodet. Keith Morrill is our copy editor. This truly is a collaborative project, and that’s the best part about State14 for us.

How are you sniffing out the stories you’re creating?
They are falling in our laps! People sometimes ask us what we’ll do when we run out of stories…I guess, the logic being that Vermont is a small state with only so many people, etc. But the stories are inexhaustible. There are so many fascinating people and places, so much history and possibility. You just have to open your eyes and reach out. If you pay attention, there’s always a story to tell.

Whom do you look to for creative inspiration? 
To be in a room with people like Duncan Johnson, or Eben Markowski, to read the essays by Jessica Lewis Stevens, or to walk around Fable Farm during an apple harvest…that’s inspiring to us. We’re energized by experiences we have living here and by meeting kind, creative people who are up to interesting things.

Some say we are living in dire times, that the world is in terrible shape, that we humans have made a mess of things. As artists, what do you feel your role is in counterbalancing that?
Yeah, there’s a lot that keeps us up at night—climate anxiety, gun violence, our iPhones. If by sharing stories we can be a part of connecting people to one another and shine a light on the beauty we see in our corner of this world, then maybe we are doing a little bit of good. 

Like most people these days you have a lot going on: careers, projects, kids. What kinds of things do you like to do when you get time to be together, just the two of you?
We like to go on walks together. Usually, it’s a morning hike up Mount Philo after dropping the kids off at school. Dylan was reading to me from a David Sedaris book last night while I was knitting…the wood stove was going. I’d like to do more of that. 

Dream vacation?
Vietnam or Japan with the whole family. But our kids are vying for Harry Potter World.